I am just returning home from a week-long trip to Florida that served two purposes. One was to work with Mandarin Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville, where Kevin Pound has been the senior pastor for 25 years. Over those years, the church has increased from an average worship attendance of less than 200 to 800 worshiping together on a Sunday. Now Kevin is preparing to retire. As a result of that impending change, the church is engaging in an intentional succession process to find a new senior pastor. I was working with the church and the PNC on that process to help determine what vision God has for them in the future, as well as helping to find the right new senior pastor to implement that vision.
The second part of the trip was for the Exponential conference, the largest church planting conference in the world. One hundred ECO folks were among 5,000 attendees. Exponential is interested in helping disciples, churches, and networks reproduce exponentially, in order to cause a notable movement in North America. The ECO attendees had an exciting few days of growing and being challenged together!
The theme of the conference was “Hero Maker.” Exponential is seeking to help church leaders embrace a shift in mindset from consciously (or subconsciously) wanting to make themselves the heroes of the church, and instead using their influence to support, encourage and empower others in life and ministry. The concept is simple and intuitive as we observe the life Jesus modeled in Scripture. Yet as leaders, we often (intentionally or unintentionally) make ministry about us and dependent on us.
I was reflecting on the connection between these two events. Pastor Kevin is not very different than many other leaders in ECO. Forty percent of our senior and solo pastors are over the age of sixty, and thus will be retiring in the next several years. There is a leadership challenge ahead when we think of finding leaders to fill current and coming openings, not to mention the leaders needed to actually become a movement. What I admire about Kevin is his willingness to be a hero-maker in the way in which he has developed disciples and leaders in the church, including pouring into his four associate pastors on staff. With a humble spirit he asked, “How can I overlap with the next pastor to set him or her up to lead the congregation to an even better future?”
All of us in ECO can consider:
How are we building up and empowering other people?
Where are we letting other people be heroes?
Where are we letting others shine even brighter than we shine?
I love that we have a permission-giving polity in ECO, which allows us to do creative and entrepreneurial ministry - and to take risks! Our polity allows us to be creative, but do our leaders allow it as well? Do we as leaders embrace risk taking? Do we empower others to step into roles or situations that cause them to grow, develop, and shine brightly?
In whom are you investing? Who on your staff or in your congregation are you encouraging to become a great leader? Now is the time to re-focus, re-evaluate, and get creative for the sake of Jesus Christ, and for the sake of the church. It’s time to become a hero-maker!